Following the November 2015 Paris attacks, a wave of anti-refugee sentiment made its way overseas to the United States as multiple governors and Congressmen began expressing an unwillingness to accept Syrian refugees. To Jason Fotso―eighteen years old at the time―this shut-door stance contradicted the longstanding U.S. policy of welcoming in refugees, and more symbolically, the sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. He sought to capture this spirit in a dual-perspective piece, one that would transform the very words of antagonism into those of empathy: an original poem, entitled “Refuge.”

Refuge, authored by Jason Fotso.

(Follow the punctuation, ignore the spacing.)

Turn away the refugees.
We will not

open up
our homes and hearts
for

children.
Close our doors on
the weak.
Only

fear behind
our
love can put
strength in our

hands.
We cannot let them bleed into our

nation.
They share the blood of our

enemy.
Our own
are endangered by
the refugees.

We have forgotten
the words that
the Statue of Liberty shines.
In this darkest hour,

terror
stands stronger than
our people
of
power.
This

fear
conquers
the home of the brave.

(Read from bottom to top, use the spacing.)

 

About the Author:

From Maple Grove, near Minneapolis, Jason Fotso has written poetry and performed spoken word since high school, speaking consciously about the world around him. Now twenty years old, he is a junior at Duke University, where he studies Public Policy. He believes deeply in the capacity of art and digital media to share our stories, open our hearts, and inspire our future. In his free time, Jason loves to read, listen, laugh, create, and daydream.